Whole Foods refuses to accept petitions over pollution by meat suppliers

Media Contacts
Brian Zabcik

90,000-plus petitioners protest environmentally conscious grocer’s links to corporate agribusiness polluters

Environment Texas

AUSTIN –A coalition of farmers, doctors and environmental leaders were shocked when Whole Foods management refused to accept delivery of 95,000 petition signatures tasking the company to hold its corporate meat suppliers accountable for the widespread water contamination caused by their irresponsible farming and waste management practices. The attempted petition drop follows three letters sent to the company in the last several months – all of which have been ignored by the company.

“I’ve done dozens of petition drops to corporations and politicians over two decades and never has one refused to accept petitions from the public,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. “I really am stunned that a company which purports to social responsibility wouldn’t even let us drop off petitions signed by their customers.”

“Many of Whole Foods’ customers probably don’t know that the chain is selling meat produced by industrial agricultural practices that are contaminating our water and destroying our last remaining prairies and wetlands,” said Lucia von Reusner, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “Whole Foods needs to hold its meat suppliers accountable for cleaning up their practices, or drop them from the shelves.” 

Whole Foods buys and resells meat from several of the large agribusiness corporations that were most responsible for causing last year’s record-breaking “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s petition calls on Whole Foods to ensure that its suppliers, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, protect waterways and natural ecosystems from excess fertilizer and manure pollution that washes off from farms and feedlots.

“Water pollution doesn’t just come from factories — it can come from farms too,” said Brian Zabcik, Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “In fact, the state’s environmental agency has found that agricultural runoff is one of the top reasons why many Texas streams, lakes, and bays have poor water quality.” 

Last year Mighty Earth released a report, “Mystery Meat: The Industry Behind the Quiet Destruction of the American Heartland,” that identified the companies most responsible for creating the agricultural runoff pollution that contaminates waterways and drinking water supplies. The bulk of this pollution comes from producing the vast quantities of corn and soy feed used to raise livestock, as well as mismanaged manure that washes into streams and rivers. Environment Texas released a report in 2016, “Corporate Agribusiness and the Fouling of America’s Waterways,” that detailed many of the same problems.

“Good food is critical to a healthy life, but the way we produce our food too often threatens public health,” said Dr. Lisa Doggett of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. “From polluted waters to climate change, industrial agriculture generates unnecessary waste which can make people sick. We’re counting on companies like Whole Foods to make sure their supplies are held to the highest standards for our environment and health.”

Pollution from meat production can be dramatically reduced by improving farming practices for producing feed, and by implementing responsible manure management systems. Practices like cover cropping, proper fertilization, diversifying crops, limiting tillage, and stopping the clearance of native prairie and wetland ecosystems for corn and soy production can help reduce runoff pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

“At a time when organic livestock standards are being watered down by the federal government, it becomes the role of businesses to step up, listen to their customers, and hold their suppliers to a higher standard,” said Andrew Smiley, Board President of Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA). Adrienne Elise Haschke, a local food policy advocate in Austin, added, “Food production has environmental impacts that extend well beyond the fields where our food is grown and raised. Tyson can do better, and Whole Foods can do better.”

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change.

Environment Texas advocates for clean air, clean water, and preservation of Texas’ natural areas on be- half of 35,000 members and online activists statewide. 

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